UFO Sightings – Real or Bogus?

UFO Sightings – Real or Bogus?

For over 50 years, we have reported explanations for bogus UFO claims. Unfortunately, when researchers have presented natural explanations for claimed UFO sightings, the media rarely reports them. Researchers have written books giving evidence to refute bogus claims of alien visitation to Earth, but they don’t get the attention of the sensational claims.

No thinking person would insist that planet Earth is the only place where life forms might exist. If God saw fit to create life elsewhere, it will be there. However, alien visitation to Earth is poorly supported by the evidence. The distance from Earth to where a life-bearing planet could exist is so great as to rule out any being traveling from another world. UFO advocates claim that aliens are so technologically advanced they can overcome the problem of traveling light-year distances. However, if they are that advanced, they could certainly prevent any detection by earthlings if they choose to do so.

The entertainment industry presents horror movies of aliens using earthlings for food or wars in space between competing alien societies. If you enjoy fantasy, these entertainment presentations may be worth your time. However, for serious students of science or the Bible, this is a useless diversion. We must not become worried or distracted by UFO sightings, thinking that extra-terrestrials are invading us.

Likewise, we need to solve our problems here on Earth and not expect some aliens to come in and do it for us. Besides, aliens could not improve on the message of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible. Human greed, selfishness, and exploitation of others will continue as long as humans entertain the notion that God does not exist and that survival of the fittest is our only choice.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Here are some books giving credible explanations of many so-called UFO sightings or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP).
UFOs Explained and UFOs: The Public Deceived by Philip J. Klass
UFO Crash at Roswell: The Genesis of a Modern Myth by Charles Ziegler and Charles Moore
The Space Gods Revealed by Ronald Story

I Need God to Live a Good Life

I Need God to Live a Good Life

“I Don’t need God to be good.” We get that message from people opposed to belief in God. They don’t think that believing in God really affects how people live. Unfortunately, it is a sad truth that people who claim to be Christians often don’t show it in how they live. At the same time, some atheists live very moral lives. However, I need God to live a good life.

My father was an atheist and a very moral man. To my knowledge, he was never unfaithful to my mother and he was honest in his financial dealings with others, including the government. He was a teacher all of his life and was respected by his students and colleagues at Indiana University. Most of us know someone who never goes to church and yet lives a good life. We have also seen reports in the media and have had personal experiences with religious leaders who exploited others in financial or moral ways. On a practical level, why should anyone be a Christian?

An old saying is that “sitting in a bank doesn’t make you rich.” When I called my child’s room a pigpen, she defended her messy room by saying, “Sitting in a pig pen doesn’t mean you are a pig.” The point of these examples is that a person who claims to be a Christian or even wears a religious title may not even believe in God or Christianity. For some, religion is a way to get rich or gain influence. The “Does God Exist?” ministry makes no attempt to claim perfection, nor do we attempt to defend organized religion. Instead, our effort is to show searching people that there is scientific support for God’s existence and the credibility of the Bible.

I need God to live a good life because God’s word gives us a set of standards of what is good and what is evil. In addition to moral standards, it tells us how to live productive lives at peace with others. You can’t read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 – 7 and not see that it shows the road to peace and goodness. Likewise, Matthew 25:31-46 lays out how we should act as Christians. No human philosophy comes close to the teachings of Christ in showing how to live a good and moral life.

In Acts 2:38, Peter talks about becoming a Christian, and he fills in the missing piece that no skeptic has or understands. Peter promises that those who become Christians will receive “the gift of the Holy Spirit.” That means God is living in us to help us overcome our weaknesses. Whatever goodness I possess is not a product of my intellect or genetics. I am so far from “survival of the fittest” that I need God to live a good life. My life is different from what it would have been if I had followed my biology or human philosophy. I’m far from perfect, but I am complete as a Christian, which is what the biblical word “perfect” means (Matthew 5:48).

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Turtle Talk – in Slow Motion

Turtle Talk - in Slow Motion

Technology makes it possible to hear animal communication that has gone unnoticed before. We are finding that animals we thought were silent actually use sounds to communicate with one another. Researchers at the University of Zurich in Switzerland captured sounds from 50 species of turtles, and they varied widely, including grunts, chirps, snorts, and whistles. Male turtles use sounds to woo females and as warnings while fighting with other males. Turtle talk can easily go unnoticed because it is infrequent.

We often think of turtles as being slow. Apparently, that applies to their communication also. Timing is the key. The researchers report that some turtles make a sound every two days or so. That’s probably why it hasn’t been noticed by humans before.

The Creator’s design gives all forms of life a way to communicate with others of their species. That ability is essential for reproductive purposes and allows the full exploitation of food reserves and warnings about enemies. It is obvious that high forms of life, such as monkeys and apes, communicate with sounds, but as science learns more about animal communication, we find surprising things such as turtle talk. God has given all life forms the unique equipment they need to live in varied environments.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: SmithsonianMag.com and The Week for December 9, 2022, page 21.

Archaeology Supports the Biblical Record

Archaeology Supports the Biblical Record - Meshe Stele
Meshe Stele in the Louvre Museum

Skeptics maintain that biblical accounts of history are total fiction made up in recent times by promotors of the Judeo/Christian tradition. Recent research in the science of archaeology supports the biblical record regarding two of the examples some skeptics gave. 

One is the Judges 4 account of judge Deborah and a Kenite woman who killed the Canaanite general Sisera by driving a tent peg through his head. Skeptics have claimed that no woman could have been a judge or a heroic avenger because of the lowly state of women at that time. Archeologists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill excavating at Huqoq in northern Israel have uncovered ancient mosaics depicting Deborah and the Kenite woman, Jael, verifying the biblical account. The dating of the mosaics is late fourth or early fifth century A.D., so the claim that the account is modern cannot be true. 

New studies of Mesha’s Stele have debunked skeptic claims that David is a fictitious character. The stele (an upright stone monument) was discovered in 1868 at a site east of the Dead Sea in modern Jordan. A research team from the West Semitic Research Project of the University of Southern California using a new research method called Reflective Transformation Imaging (RTI) has shown the reference in the Mesha Stele to the “House of David” is valid. 

The science of archaeology supports the biblical record. We predict that as new tools become available, archaeologists will find more support for the credibility of the Bible.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Detailed discussions of these two new finds are reported in the Winter 2022 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (Volume 48 #4).

LGBTQ Hate Crimes Have No Place in Christianity

LGBTQ Hate Crimes Have No Place in Christianity

Our hearts go out to the families of those killed and those injured in recent shootings. In November 2022, there were six mass killing incidents in the United States. Violence seems to be increasing against people attending LGBTQ clubs, venues, and drag events. Some blame this violence on Christians, claiming that biblical teachings against homosexuality and alternative lifestyles cause senseless violence. The truth is that the teachings of Jesus Christ adamantly oppose violence against anyone. It is a biblical mandate that Christians oppose sin, but it is also Christ’s command that we love the sinner. LGBTQ hate crimes have no place in Christianity.

In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, and 7), Jesus explained how Christians should deal with opposition.
In Matthew 5:38, Jesus reminds His listeners that people in the past had said, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” In the violent world of primitive people, that way of thinking was common. Unfortunately, that principle is followed by many people today. By contrast, Jesus said, “But I say to you, don’t resist the man who wants to hurt you…” (verse 39). In verses 43-44, He expands that command by saying, “It used to be said to be kind to your friend and hate your enemy. But what I tell you is love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.”

Skeptics will respond to this by referring to Romans 1:18–2:16, which identifies those who reject God’s plan for human morality. Romans 1:24 tells us, “God abandoned them to impurity, letting them follow the cravings of their hearts, so they degrade their own bodies with one another.” Later verses describe all kinds of aberrant behavior by those who deliberately choose lifestyles of violence and opposition to God.

The first point we need to make about these verses is that they do not describe most LGBTQ practitioners in America today. The more important point is that if you keep reading further in Romans 2, you find it telling Christians to leave the situation to God. It is not the job of Christians to be the judge, jury, and executioner. Leave the judging to God. LGBTQ hate crimes have no place in Christianity

The reason God opposes LGBTQ behavior is that it is a destructive lifestyle. We don’t know all the causes of homosexual behavior, but they are clearly not the same for everyone. Statistics show that such behavior leads to negative numbers for stability, disease, and life expectancy. However, those affect the individual and are not a direct threat to others. I have gay friends who are the kindest and most creative people I know, and Jesus tells His followers to love all people.

Nevertheless, Jesus must weep with us at the horrible violence that has been part of American life in recent years. It makes no sense to direct violence toward people who have done nothing that would suggest they are a threat to anyone except possibly themselves. LGBTQ hate crimes have no place in Christianity.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: USA Today Network in South Bend Tribune for 11/22/22, pages 1A and 3A.

Recursive Sequences and Language

Recursive Sequences and Language - Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker

One of the most interesting differences between animals and humans is language. All animals communicate, and most animals that humans relate to use sounds to facilitate their communication. In recent studies, researchers have suggested that the use of recursive sequences by monkeys and crows is a type of language. However, communication and language are not the same.

The dictionary definition of recursive is “doing or saying the same thing several times in order to produce a particular result.” The newest research shows that crows and monkeys use recursive sequences at a level comparable to what a three or four-year-old child would do. There are a variety of explanations as to why these animals use recursive sequences, but this does not mean that crows and monkeys are using language or that they possess culture or express identity.

A woodpecker likes to pound on the flashing of my chimney
with such enthusiasm that people can hear it throughout the neighborhood. This is communication warning all other woodpeckers to stay out of his territory. Likewise, the cardinal that sits in a bush near my office window “sings,” but the song is a warning, not an expression of language or music.

The dictionary defines language as “a system of conventional spoken, manual (signed), or written symbols by means of which human beings, as members of a social group and participants in its culture, express themselves. The functions of language include communication, the expression of identity, play, imaginative expression, and emotional release.”

The Bible defines humans as beings uniquely created in the image of God. This is a spiritual definition and does not involve intelligence or skills. We see the spiritual nature of humans in a variety of characteristics. Those include our creative ability in art and music, self-concept and recognition, and the ability to feel guilt, sympathy, and empathy. Those are all manifestations of the spiritual nature of humans. Recursive sequences may or may not be among these characteristics, but they are not a singular indicator of being human. Because of our spiritual nature, humans also have the capacity to worship and envision life beyond death.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: https://dictionary.cambridge.org.

Difference Between Pain and Suffering

Difference Between Pain and Suffering

One of the attributes unique to humans is the ability to suffer. You may think the words “suffering” and “pain” are synonyms, but they describe different things. The difference between pain and suffering demonstrates the uniqueness of humans.

Pain is a physical characteristic of almost all living things. It is easy to show that when a nervous system experiences a violent stimulus, it produces an electric signal. For animals, the nervous system is connected to a muscular system that frees the organism from damaging stimuli. This design is present in all members of the animal kingdom to protect them from being wiped out by predators or destructive environmental agents.

The difference between pain and suffering shows us that suffering is a different response and serves a different purpose. Romans 8:16-18 tells us that Christians are joint heirs with Christ and that Christians will suffer with Christ. This means that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us.” It is obvious that not all Christians have been physically crucified as Jesus was.

In 2 Corinthians 1:5-7, Paul writes, “For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so … we endure the same sufferings … for your salvation and our hope for you is knowing that you are partakers in the suffering.” In Philippians 3:8-10, Paul says that he has suffered the loss of all things and refers to the fellowship of His sufferings. In Colossians 1:24, Paul talks about his sufferings for the church in Colosse. Hebrews 2:10 refers to Christ enabling his followers to be made perfect in their salvation through sufferings. Christ himself, according to Hebrews 5:8, “earned obedience by the things he suffered.” This theme is repeated in 1 Peter 1:11, 4:13, and 5:10.

The context of all of these passages is clear. There is a difference between pain and suffering. We are not talking about physical things like being burned, scourged, tortured, or beaten. The early Christians did endure those things, but that is not what the passages above describe.

The simplest example of the sufferings described is what we endure when we have what we call a broken heart. Having heartbreak does not refer to something physical. Most of us who have had our hearts broken would be glad to take a beating instead. A physical beating does not last long. I have had physical pain from a beating, but that pain is a distant memory. The heartbreak of watching my wife die is still heavy upon me, even though it happened more than a decade ago.

Being a Christian in today’s world shares some of the sufferings that first-century Christians endured. Some of us have suffered being rejected and disowned by family. Others have lost good jobs because of their faith. Speaking out in favor of Christ and Christianity, in general, can result in verbal abuse, ridicule, ostracism, exclusion, and rejection. This suffering is real and scars you emotionally and sometimes spiritually.

Animals do not show any evidence of the kind of suffering we have described. Animal behavior is based on food and instinctive drives to reproduce. Guilt, empathy, and sympathy are not part of animal behavior. Claims of grief in animals such as elephants may or may not be real. If it is real, it is based on the social structure of the pack or group and not because the animal is suffering from the memory of a loss that will extend for the rest of the animal’s life.

We can see the difference between pain and suffering in humans because we have a unique spiritual makeup that allows suffering and enables us to relate to the suffering of others. Because we are created in the image of God, we can understand how an agape type of love is possible. That is why Christianity is the one hope the world has for the peace of all people. Your soul suffers, and this suffering can last a lifetime. We need to help animals avoid pain, but human empathy is what may someday foster world peace. That hope is always before us and is unique to humans.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Bird Brains and Efficient Neurons

Bird Brains and Efficient Neurons
A Macaw has a 20-gram Brain

In the 1950s, if you wanted to denigrate someone, you could call them a “bird brain” because people believed birds weren’t very smart. This assumption probably came from association with domesticated chickens. However, a 2016 study showed that bird brains are denser than those of many other animals. For example, a macaw has a 20-gram brain, and a squirrel monkey has a 30-gram brain, but they have the same number of neurons. 

A new study of bird brains by researchers in Germany shows that bird neurons are more energy efficient than those of mammals. For example, pigeon neurons use three times less energy than mammal neurons. Birds are designed to do many things requiring brain power, including flying and singing complex vocalizations. 

The lead researcher of this study suggests that the brains of birds are organized so that neurons can more easily exchange signals. Organization does not come out of random chance mutations. It requires an organizer. Watching birds around our feeders, we see them doing some incredible things. We know that they are guided by brains that have specific functions allowing them to find and use seeds and other food sources in the winter. 

The brains of all animals are designed to allow them to live in a particular environment. What is unique about humans is that we can alter the environment rather than being altered by it. Also, our brains allow activities such as art, music, complex mathematics, worship, and the ability to be taught to think. Our spiritual nature sets us apart and allows our creative activity and our understanding that there is life beyond the grave. 

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “Food for Thought” in Scientific American December 2022.

How Can You Believe in Angels?

How Can You Believe in Angels?

“How can you believe in angels when so many horrible things are happening in the world today?” That is a typical comment we receive from skeptics. Islam emphasizes the angel Gabriel, and Mormons credit the angel Moroni for their scriptures. A Catholic website claims that all people have guardian angels “to rule and guide.” Around the Christmas season, we are exposed to many stories, movies, and songs based on angel involvement in human affairs. So what is the truth about angels?

The Bible does not suggest that angels are good people who have left this life or that they are robotic agents of God. Angels are beings created by God and not limited to our dimensions of time and space. Being outside of time gives them both abilities and limitations. In Matthew 22:30, Jesus did not say that we will become angels when we die, but we will become like angels with respect to marriage. The Bible tells us that angels can sin and rebel against God. (See 2 Peter 2:4, Galatians 1:8, John 8:44, and Jude 6.) However, angels cannot repent of sin because repentance requires time. If an angel chooses to reject God, there is no turning back – it is a one-way street. Once we leave this physical existence, we will be out of time, and the same will be true of us. We will have no time to change your eternal destiny.

How can you believe in angels? The bottom line is that a war between good and evil is going on that involves both spiritual and physical dimensions. The purpose for our existence is to achieve victory in that war. The book of Job clearly shows that our physical struggle involves spiritual forces. The only recourse for skeptics and atheists is to deny that evil exists, but doing that eliminates the purpose for human existence.

Angels can choose to sin, and the Bible makes it clear that this has happened. (See Revelation 12:9 and 2 Corinthians 11:3-4.) While angels can do what God commands, they cannot remove a human’s ability to choose between good and evil. They also cannot prevent the consequences of bad human choices. (See Galatians 6:7). However, the Bible promises us a way to overcome temptation if we choose to use it. (See 1 Corinthians 10:13.)

Angels are real and have served God’s purpose in the war between good and evil throughout history. (See Genesis 18-19 and Judges 6:11-27.) So how can you believe in angels? They have done things we see as miracles as they serve a purpose in God’s plan. Skeptics can deny the reality of God and angels because they have freedom of choice, as all humans do. But wrong choices carry eternal consequences and remove any real purpose for human existence.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reading the Rocks in Wisconsin Dells

Reading the Rocks in Wisconsin Dells

We have just enjoyed a return visit to the Wisconsin Dells. I say a “return visit” because, in the army, I was stationed at Camp McCoy near Sparta, Wisconsin. The closest place to go for an escape from military rigor was the Dells. Later, when I was in a National Science Foundation teacher training seminar, we spent a day at the Dells learning about the area’s geological history. I have been to the Dells nearly a dozen times and watched it change from a primitive camping area to a tourist water wonderland. As a geologist, I enjoy reading the rocks in Wisconsin Dells.

The Dells area is geologically interesting because the glaciers did something unusual there. For reasons still debated by geologists, glaciers that covered all of Wisconsin went around the Dells area. That left a very different geology compared to the rest of the state. Where we live in Michigan, glaciers dominated the whole state. Our house sits on a glacial moraine where glaciers dumped sand and gravel as they moved south.

In our gravel pits, we find rocks that came from hundreds of miles north of us. When I took my earth science students on field trips to area gravel pits, they found pieces of copper from the upper peninsula and Jasper conglomerate from southern Ontario. There is no exposed bedrock in southern Michigan, only sand, gravel, and clay left by the glaciers. Hundreds of pothole lakes and ponds cover the area, making it home to a variety of wildlife not abundant in Wisconsin. Farming in our area involves fruits and berries that are rare in Wisconsin.

Reading the rocks in Wisconsin Dells tells us a whole different story with exposed sedimentary bedrock and very little sand and gravel. The area’s rivers are very different, with large pillars and buttes that were spared by the glacial ice, and very few ponds. The whole ecological area of the Dells differs from the surrounding part of the state, and the varied ecology provides different natural resources. For example, the grasses that grow in a place like the Dells provide grains not as easily grown in glaciated areas.

Reading the rocks in Wisconsin Dells tells us that God has provided radically different ecological systems for our benefit. If all areas of the planet were the same, that would limit the available resources. The wisdom of having multiple agents to prepare different soils, different amounts of water, and different mixing of minerals reminds us of the message of Proverbs 8:22-31. That passage personifies Wisdom as being there when God created all these things. Learning to read Earth’s geological history shows us the methods God used to prepare this planet for human habitation. How blessed we are to travel and see places like Wisconsin Dells and learn of God’s wisdom, love, power, and patience in all He does.

— John N. Clayton © 2022